A strong contract is only as good as its enforcement, and that process is what ensures our safety and security long after a strike. Here are this week’s victories from the CTU Grievance Department. Because #WhenWeFightWeWin!

Severe water damage. And mice.

The Union had two recent grievance wins regarding clean and safe schools—both for Swift Elementary School. One was for severe water damage in the school that caused mold and peeling paint. We contended that there was active and persistent water leakage in the school’s book and laundry rooms that created a toxic and harmful work environment.

Article 14-1 of our contract with the Board of Ed states that bargaining unit employees shall work under safe and healthful working conditions. The Board is required to ensure that employees are secure and not unreasonably exposed to risks to their personal health on the job. Over the course of a year, we were able to secure increased resources and staffing from Aramark. To address the water damage, CPS ordered and completed repairs to the roof, which included testing for lead paint.

The other grievance contended that live mice and droppings were found in areas around the school, including five classrooms, the security desk and the main office. The infestation was due to unclean and unhealthy conditions, and included video evidence of a mouse running around the classroom as well as several pictures of the crumbling walls and rodent feces.

An additional custodial position was created, and all custodial workers were retrained on cleaning processes. Aramark also contracted with a pest service that visited Swift weekly to eliminate pest activity. The Swift principal confirmed that all classrooms were cleaned and all droppings removed prior to the 2019-2020 school year

The Swift delegate and other members did a great job taking pictures and organizing. The members also signed a petition demanding action. This school also has a very active Local School Council, and no doubt the Board knew we could escalate this issue easily.

REACH grievance delay

We have prevailed again in the case of Lane Tech teacher Sundy SaTsu. We discussed his previous case last spring (“A Whim and a Prayer”), which was one of many REACH grievances filed on March 4, 2016 based on ratings for the 2014-2015 school year. The Board of Ed contended that all grievances filed that day were late by one day. We convinced the arbitrator that we were correct that professional development days do not count as “school days” because students are not in school. The grievance was therefore timely and clearly meritorious. Thus, the arbitrator reversed the layoff that had resulted from the challenged rating.

After we prevailed, however, the Board argued that the one-day delay should reduce SaTsu’s back pay. We argued that the delay was the Board’s fault, because it had a strategy of mooting cases to a ruling on the key one-day-late issue. The arbitrator accepted the Board’s argument, but only in part—awarding SaTsu back pay except for the period from September 2017 (when the arbitrator ruled that the Board can moot grievances) to March 2018 (when we started advancing the case). The exact amount of back pay for SaTsu will be more than $200,000 even with these months removed from the calculation.

He is also going back to work at Lane Tech in February 2020, per agreement with the Board, after being laid off in the summer of 2015 when Lane expanded the Japanese language program to a full-time teacher. (The Board erroneously contended that part-time teachers have no seniority rights and allowed the principal to make a new hire for that full-time position.)

We must continue to stand up for our contract and be ready to challenge the Board for any violation of our rights. When we fight, we win, but we cannot win if we do not fight. If conditions in your school are not what you and your colleague deserve, document everything and let your field representative know immediately. They are here to help, and will work with you and CTU counsel to improve the climate in your building and the schools your students deserve.